THE SOME-STAR GAME
Whenever in doubt, the National Basketball Association substitutes quantity for quality—more games, more teams. Now the NBA has announced that its All-Star Game this year will feature 14-man rosters. In a sport where coaches have trouble finding playing time for more than eight men, this creates a truly impossible situation. The NBA, like other major sports, denies fans the right to see the genuinely best players by demanding that all teams in the league be represented by at least one player. With 14-man rosters chock full of expansion rinky-dinks, fans will not be paying to see an All-Star Game but a House of Representatives.
There are plenty of good alternatives. The simplest would be two 10-man rosters—the best 10, no matter who they play for—head to head, best vs. best. Or go the other way, and have four conference All-Star squads (the league is set up with four groups now) playing a two-night All-Star series. Either way, hard competition would be restored. If the NBA must, however, go with its unwieldy 14-man telephone-book team, it ought to consider a simple suggestion by Atlanta Coach Richie Guerin. He proposes that an extra, fifth quarter be added to the game. The ersatz expansion All-Stars could play one quarter while even one went out and got hot dogs, and then the real All-Stars could go at it for a regular 48 minutes.
A place called Tigertops, a luxurious camping-out spot in Nepal, is offering jaded travelers the Elephant Ring (four days: $595 each, $1,100 a couple), a jungle thrill show in which tourists pursue tigers while "mounted on very secure staunch shikar howdah elephants for their safety." Dozens of elephants form a large circle and gradually move in, tightening the ring around whatever animals, including tigers, are inside. "The heart-bursting excitement can continue for over an hour," Tigertops promises. "As the ring closes, only the mighty Nepal tiger is allowed to remain inside. Backwards and forwards the tiger charges, striving to find an escape through the ring to a pandemonium of men shouting and elephants trumpeting, thumping the ground with their trunks and even occasionally, when directly attacked, turning and bolting in terror while other elephants nearby press in to reclose the ring." The tiger is eventually allowed to escape—"No shooting of game is allowed at Tigertops"—after having had the living hell scared out of him.
The Elephant Ring seems to have all the taste and perception of a demolition derby, with one added vulgarity. Tigertops promises that "bar elephants will be provided in the jungle for your refreshment and agile bar boys will deliver your choice of drinks, often jumping from elephant to elephant in the process." Wow.
Derek (Turk) Sanderson, the colorful, controversial center of the Boston Bruins, has been in a contract hassle with the Bruins' management. His salary the past three seasons has been $10,000, $12,000 and $14,000, and Sanderson says that even after the Bruins' Stanley Cup triumph the club has offered him only a $4,000 raise, to $18,000 a year. Boston newspapers have raised a great flap about Derek's "peon's wages," so much so that Weston Adams Jr., son of the majority stockholder of the Bruins, came out publicly and said that Sanderson last year made a total of not $14,000 but $36,000. The player's base pay was $14,000, Adams said, but all members of the club earned a $1,000 bonus from the front office for finishing second in regular-season play, and the Bruins gave Sanderson an added personal bonus of $11,000. He received another $1,250 from the league for his team's second-place finish and $8,750 for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Total: $36,000.
"It has never been the club's policy to disclose salaries," Adams said, "but we feel that it is necessary in this case. We'd like to clear the air. We feel the best way is to release the actual figures, and these are honest ones." He did not deny that the contract Sanderson has received for 1970-71 calls for $18,000.
Sanderson's attorney, Bob Woolf, commented, "The average hockey player does as well financially as the average pro athlete elsewhere, but men in their early years do not and neither do the superstars. There is nobody in the National Hockey League making $100,000, although there are 13 players in the National Basketball Association at that figure. In hockey $50,000 is considered extremely big money."
And $18,000 is a long, long way from $50,000.
OUT THERE IN TELEVISION LAND
Television watchers in and around big cities don't know the problems that beset the electronic monster in less-populated areas of the country. Take Tyler, Texas (pop. 55,000). KLTV carries Saturday's college football and Sunday's professional games, and station manager Marshall Pengra felt that adding the NFL's Monday-night games might be a bit too much. But to be on the safe side, he decided to ask his audience. Responses came from 3,000 people scattered around 19 counties. Almost 55% were for Monday football, but a substantial 45% was against the idea. Since KLTV is the only channel available to a good part of its audience, Pengra decided the station would continue its earlier practice of showing Monday Night at the Movies in the 8 p.m. slot. He announced his decision in an on-the-air editorial, in which he noted that "either way, we're in the doghouse." (Shot of Pengra in a doghouse.) Then, standing, he declared, "Saturday football [pause] YES! Sunday football [pause] YES! Monday football [pause] no."
Girls recruited from the station staff rushed on-camera and placed flowers at his feet. Men, similarly recruited, followed the girls and put a bucket labeled TRAITOR on Pengra's head.
And that's it from Tyler, Texas, folks.
Ktre in Lufkin, Texas is owned by the people who own the Tyler station, and they ran a football poll, too. Results in Lufkin were clear-cut, with 58% against Monday-night football and only 42% in favor.
But can you imagine? Almost 60% against football! Lufkin is apt to find itself ejected from the state of Texas.
A baseball fan named Doug Guinard, who lived in California before moving to New York and whose heart is still in the Golden West, has become concerned about the lack of intense interest in his old state's two excellent American League baseball teams: the California Angels and the Oakland Athletics. Guinard feels that part of the trouble lies with the teams' names. Oakland, for instance, is the wrong name for the A's because comparatively few people in and around the San Francisco Bay Area can get very excited about Oakland. The team should be renamed the Northern California Athletics. Then, because the Angels are no longer the only American League team in the state, the name California is wrong for them. They should become the Southern California Angels. With these simple name changes, he argues, the American League would automatically benefit from the long-standing rivalry between the two great sections of the state. Games between Northern California and Southern California could compare with the tremendous Los Angeles-San Francisco rivalry in the National League. Guinard says the new names would also promote greater interest in the teams on their road trips to the Middle West and the East, and he convincingly demonstrates how much more interesting the American League West standings would have looked this week:
FLY THEM PROUDLY
The United States Power Squadrons, an organization half a century old for people who own powerboats, deserves commendation for a number of things. One is its boat-safety program, a second is its nationwide free boating courses (for information call 800-243-6000, toll-free) and a third is its burgees. A burgee is the little pennant boats fly as identification, and the USPS has 372 of them registered, one for each of 372 different power squadrons scattered around the country and even abroad. Many of the burgees have a classic nautical simplicity, but some have the free-swinging imagination of a Welsh-rabbit nightmare. Akron, for instance, has a blimp floating on a ship's wheel. Beaumont shows an oil derrick and Cape Canaveral displays a space station and a spaceship floating in a blue void high above a tiny Earth. Some are literal to an extreme: Key West has a key superimposed on a W, Lansing a lance (oh, dear), Baton Rouge a red stick and Calumet a peace pipe. Wonder winners are Great Neck and Little Neck Bay; the former features a giraffe and the latter a bird with a thin, eentsy-beentsy strip between head and body. Prize of prizes is Banana River Power Squadron, whose burgee shows—honest to God—a yellow banana on a blue and white field.
A year ago Organized Baseball had a couple of minor leagues experiment with the concept of a "designated pinch hitter," a nonfielding batter whose only function was to hit for the pitcher (who remained in the game) each time that weak-hitting worthy was duo to bat. Results were said to be inconclusive—baseball is "studying" them—and this year the experiment was shelved. However, one place where the pinch hitter idea seemed to pay off last year was in Omaha, where Steve Boros of the Royals hit .319 with 10 RBIs, Bo Osborne hit .294 with 16 RBIs and the entire DPH contingent batted .277, quite a respectable figure these days. The Royals, perhaps coincidentally, won the pennant. This summer, with the DPH a thing of the past, Omaha's pitchers had a combined average in August of only .149 and had batted in barely half the runs that Boros and Osborne had, and the club (it could still be a coincidence) was languishing in third place in the league's four-team Eastern Division.
Two of Omaha's nonhitting pitchers were unabashed by all this. Monty Montgomery, who was batting a splendid .057, said, "Heck, I'm not doing too badly. One game I was up four straight times without striking out once." Mike Hedlund, who was hitting .105 and once struck out 13 times in succession, is against a return of the designated pinch-hitter rule. He says, "I think it adds more excitement to the game for the fans to see me mess up at the plate."
A Canadian named Raymond Hull is writing a book called Man's Best Fiend which documents all the bad things he could find about dogs—child-killing packs, cowardice, diseases they carry—and even includes a chapter on how to cook and eat them. Hull, who admits he does not love dogs and has never owned one, claims he does not hate them, either, and has even joined the antivivisection movement. He says, "I just want to be the first author to tell the truth about them."
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Cassidy, University of Dayton assistant basketball coach, after recruiting the school's second set of identical twins in three years: "It's easier to recruit twins—you only have to visit one house."
•Earlie Thomas, rookie cornerback of the New York Jets' camp, a student of entomology, on the resemblance between collecting insects and football: "Quick hands are important to an entomologist. Same with a cornerback. You've got to have good hands and speed. When you work with insects you're doing it alone. Cornerbacking is the same thing. I guess most cornerbacks are sort of lonely. We like to be ourselves."
•Young fan to Byron Nelson, one of golf's greatest: "I know you—you work with Chris Schenkel."